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Press Release

Venezuelan National Carlos Orense Azocar Convicted After Trial On Drug Trafficking And Weapons Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Carlos Orense Azocar Conspired with High-Ranking Venezuelan Officials and Members of the Venezuelan Military and Intelligence Agencies to Distribute Tons of Cocaine to the United States

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Anne Milgram, the Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced that a jury returned a guilty verdict against CARLOS ORENSE AZOCAR yesterday on all three counts in the Indictment, which contained cocaine-importation and weapons charges.  The defendant was found guilty following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “For more than a decade, Carlos Orense Azocar worked with some of the largest narcotics traffickers in the world to send tons of cocaine to the United States.  He partnered with corrupt high-ranking government and military officials in Venezuela and employed an arsenal of high-powered weapons to protect his cocaine distribution organization.  For years, Orense Azocar shipped mountains of poison to this country and made millions of dollars in drug money.  But no more.  A jury in this district has unanimously held Orense Azocar responsible for his crimes, and now he will face a possible life sentence behind bars.” 

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said: “Orense Azocar and his drug trafficking organization used every means available, including high-powered weaponry, government corruption, and bribery, to safeguard his expansive operation and traffic hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States.  Today’s verdict is another example of the dangerous and vital work DEA does every day across the globe and our relentless pursuit of justice for those responsible for causing harm to the American people.”

As reflected in the Indictment, public filings, and the evidence presented at trial:

Beginning in or about 2003, ORENSE AZOCAR and his drug trafficking organization distributed tons of cocaine destined for importation into the United States.  ORENSE AZOCAR helped transport, receive, and distribute loads of cocaine ranging from hundreds to thousands of kilograms from Venezuela to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere, using air and maritime routes.  ORENSE AZOCAR operated fincas, or ranches, in Venezuela, where he stored his cocaine in underground tanks, stored hundreds of deadly weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition, and which had clandestine landing strips from which he dispatched airplanes loaded with cocaine.  ORENSE AZOCAR also loaded cocaine on “go-fast” boats that sped from the Venezuelan coastline to intermediate delivery points in the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic and close to Puerto Rico.  To aid in his cocaine distribution, ORENSE AZOCAR worked with and paid bribes to high-ranking officials throughout the Venezuelan government, including military generals and army officials, national police commissioners, and high-ranking officials in the Venezuelan intelligence agencies.  ORENSE AZOCAR’s corrupt Venezuelan government connections secured access to military-grade weaponry, protection from military and law enforcement raids, safe passage for ORENSE AZOCAR’s cocaine convoys through checkpoints, and fraudulent airplane transponder codes to permit ORENSE AZOCAR’s cocaine-laden aircraft to freely depart Venezuela en route to Central America and Mexico.  ORENSE AZOCAR similarly partnered with armed guerilla forces operating in Colombia and Venezuela to source cocaine and secure safe passage for his cocaine shipments.  ORENSE AZOCAR distributed hundreds of tons of cocaine and made tens of millions of dollars through his narcotics trafficking.

To protect and expand his cocaine trafficking organization, ORENSE AZOCAR employed high-powered weaponry.  He had armed security teams that guarded his finca; traveled in armored vehicles with armed security; and used armed security, military forces, and police to protect his convoys of cocaine.  Among other weapons, ORENSE AZOCAR employed automatic rifles, submachine guns, handguns modified to operate as machine guns, and a 50-caliber mounted machine gun. 

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ORENSE AZOCAR, 68, of Venezuela, was convicted on three counts: (i) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential sentence of life in prison; (ii) using and carrying machine guns during, and possessing machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a mandatory consecutive minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and maximum potential sentence of life in prison; and (iii) conspiring to use and carry machine guns during, and to possess machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.

The minimum and maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for information purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) operation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, OCDETF New York Strike Force, and SDNY Digital Forensics Unit, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

This case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kaylan E. Lasky, Michael D. Lockard, and Kevin Sullivan are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist William Sirmon.


Nicholas Biase
(212) 637-2600

Updated December 13, 2023

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Press Release Number: 23-425